A lot of organizations I've worked with are fortunate to have celebrity supporters and allies, so I've spent my fair share of time discussing how best to leverage that kind of high-profile support. It's not always clear or easy to take advantage of a big name on your donor roll, so I wanted to share some of my thoughts.
First, a "celebrity" isn't just a famous actor or musician. It can be anyone related to your specific community who has name recognition and credibility. For a health-related nonprofit, that might be a super-star physician, for a science advocacy group, a former astronaut or Nobel Prize-winner. For fundraising purposes, a "celebrity" is anyone your supporters will recognize and relate to.
So, you've noticed a prominent person has started giving to your organization. Or you've got a famous board member. Or a celebrity tweeted their admiration for your mission to their 600,000 followers. How can you use their support to generate even more love for your cause?
Five Ways to Use Your Celebrity Supporters
- Ask them to be the Chair (or Honorary Chair) of a specific Membership group, probably a high-dollar giving group. This can involve anything from simply signing fundraising materials directed at the group, to taking a more active role, depending on their interests, time and level of commitment.
- Ask them to sign a Prospecting Letter or a Lift Letter in your Acquisition package. NRDC and Friends of the Earth both use celebrity signers -- actors known for their environmental passions -- in their acquisition packages to great success.
- Ask them to make a video expressing why they support your organization and asking others to do the same. You can post this on the Web or send it in your e-mail newsletter as an extra endorsement for what you do.
- Ask them to host (even in an honorary capacity) a major special event. A good name will draw more people to your event, and their participation can lend a "stamp of approval" that inspires others to give.
- Present them with an award at a major special event. An alternative to asking them to host, this technique can also up attendance at your event. And it could be a first step to a more fruitful relationship with that celebrity, ensuring they help you more in the future.
There are, of course, some sticky issues with using celebrity supporters to assist in your fundraising. If your celebrity becomes embroiled in a scandal, for example, your association with them could hurt your organization more than help. Alternatively, if their notoriety doesn't add credibility to your cause with your donors, then it might not be the best fit. And obviously, you should always treat these supporters with respect and gratitude. Don't push them to do more than they're comfortable doing, and don't take them for granted.
But if you have a loyal celebrity supporter or two who is willing to use their acclaim to call attention to your cause, and you target that attention in one of the ways listed above, you can give your fundraising a boost.